James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William C. C. Claiborne, 5 January 1805 (Abstract)

§ From William C. C. Claiborne

5 January 1805, New Orleans. “I now enclose you the Correspondence between the Marquis of Casa Calvo and myself, upon the Subject of his Guard. I had not considered this Guard as an object of serious concern; it was small and for Some time did not seem to excite disquietude among the Citizens.

“I was certainly impressed with an opinion that the Marquis could not maintain his Guard as a Matter of right; but since it had produced no mischief, and as the Marquis seemed pleased with the establishment, I thought it not worthy of my serious attention. But of late two or three complaints having been made by Citizens who had experienced some interruption by the Spanish Guard,1 I addressed to the Marquis my Letter of the 8th. Ultimo.2 His Answer of the 9th was not satisfactory.3 But owing to his absence from the City, my reply was delayed until the 25th Ultimo;4 and on that day Mr Pollock submitted his resolution to the Council;5 I am persuaded that Mr. Pollock was influenced by motives of honest Patriotism; but I am inclined to think, that he was advised to the measure, by some one, who wished to embarrass me here, and injure me at the Seat of Government. The resolution gave to the Guard an importance it did not merit, and to the Subject generally, a colouring which will make it misunderstood every where, but in this City. For no one unacquainted with the facts would Suppose that the Spanish Troops whom the proposed resolution has represented as so dangerous to the peace of the City, and to the Sovereignty of the United States consisted only of a Corporal and four men, posted at the Lodgings of the late Commissioner for the delivery [of] Louisiana to the French Republic; and who also claims to be a Commissioner of Limits.

“The Resolution has been rejected by the Council, inasmuch as it related to no object, falling within their province. The Marquis however has, as you will see by his late Letter,6 discontinued his Guard, and on this score I presume no further inquietude will exist.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, TP, Orleans, vol. 6); letterbook copy and letterbook copies of four enclosures (LU: Claiborne Letterbook). RC 2 pp.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Claiborne; docketed by Wagner as received 21 Feb. For enclosures, see nn. 1–4 and 6.

1Claiborne enclosed a copy of a letter to him from George Ross, 6 Dec. 1804 (1 p.; printed in Bradley, Interim Appointment, 117), complaining that the previous evening he and Dr. John Lynd had been “hailed by a Spanish Soldier” near Casa Calvo’s residence. Ross rebuked the man and complained to his superior but received no satisfaction. The soldier, on being reproached by Ross “for his insolence placed his hand to his Sword” but seeing Ross was armed “did not draw.”

2Claiborne enclosed a copy of his letter to Casa Calvo, 8 Dec. 1804 (1 p.; docketed by Wagner; printed ibid., 118), complaining that one soldier had forced citizens to the other side of the street and another “thought himself authorized to Hail and Stop a Citizen”; Claiborne suggested that the guard be posted within Casa Calvo’s enclosure.

3Claiborne enclosed a translation dated 8 Dec. 1804 of Casa Calvo’s letter to him (2 pp.; docketed by Wagner), stating that members of his guard had been instructed not to interfere with anyone or obstruct the street, that upon inquiry Casa Calvo was told that nothing had happened except the appearance at his door on the night of 5 Dec. of “a man dressed in black, with a naked Sabre in his hand” who asked for him, and that he was distressed that Claiborne listened to ungrounded complaints.

4Claiborne enclosed a copy of his letter to Casa Calvo dated 29 Dec. 1804 (1 p.; docketed by Wagner; printed ibid., 129–30), expressing his dissatisfaction with Casa Calvo’s letter and stating that he had been told Ross’s account was accurate and accorded with other similar complaints, that Casa Calvo’s guard was not obeying the orders given, that if it was inconvenient to withdraw the men to within Casa Calvo’s residence they would have to be dispensed with entirely, and that Casa Calvo could be provided with an American guard should he desire it.

5For George Pollock’s resolution, see Claiborne to JM, 31 Dec. 1804 (second letter), and n. 1.

6Claiborne enclosed a translation of a letter from Casa Calvo to him of 2 Jan. 1805 (1 p.; docketed by Wagner), stating that he had, “without questioning the merits of the Complaints made by some Citizens,” ordered the guard removed, retaining only two soldiers to carry dispatches connected with his appointment as boundary commissioner, and declining with thanks Claiborne’s offer of an American guard “on account of the difference of Languages, which would render it quite useless.” Claiborne also enclosed a copy of his 4 Jan. 1805 reply (1 p.; docketed by Wagner; printed in Bradley, Interim Appointment, 134–35), stating that the guard itself had not been a concern, but that the complaints of citizens had led him to ask for its withdrawal in the interest of harmony and adding that every officer of the U.S. government would be happy to render Casa Calvo protection.

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